Food Politics

You may wonder why such a title is relevant to a blog about a new garden? Well I had always planned to give up a fair portion of the garden to growing produce for our table, even since having an allotment, I now realise what immense pleasure this give me. To be honest I’m not sure the work to produce ratio really makes it worthwhile if you were to work it on paper, but the process more than makes up for it in pleasure. It’s part of my weekly exercise, and I find it almost spiritually rewarding! The benefits in this respect far outweigh any element of chore in my opinion. Being at one with the natural cycles of life makes me feel connected to the world, and passing on this element of gardening to my children is really important to me. I truly believe that before long we will return to a more traditional system of food management, rejecting the more artificial and less sustainable method of farming since the 60’s. It’s already turning that way with people more aware of food provenance and seeking out local quality.

This ethos does get me into trouble a bit with my husband who is much more geared towards convenience which is ironic as he really loves good food. Somehow he fails to make that connection between simple good flavoured food and it being home grown. I think he feels I invest far too much of my time and money in growing my own produce for little return, but how could we measure the benefits in the health of the family? When I had my last son last June I feel ill with an infection that was probably quite hard for me to have avoided, but all the medical professionals were amazed at how I healed after an operation, I definitely put this down to the fact my mother was looking after me, cooking delicious meals made from fresh fruit and veg from both our allotments. I know a lot of work is now being done to improve awareness in hospitals of the importance of good nutrition in helping the body heal. It’s simple really, and I find it hard to understand how we arrived at a point where food meant so little in such a crucial situation.

On this note, yesterday I marked out my eight bed veg plot, and planted two more fruit trees. I’m truly looking forward to getting to know my new terroir and what bounties it will bring.

Plant a tree

The autumn leaves of the Prunus Chocolate Ice contrast beautifully against the Silver Birch

Since moving here in late December there has been little if no time for the garden. We have renovated the house to a liveable standard, and have spent any other spare moments with (oh so glamorous) trips to the tip to get rid of all the rubbish accumulated while moving. When we inherited the garden it was as described here:

130ft long by 40ft wide; boundaries market by a brick wall on the right and across the back and a wooden fence on the right; a very mature pear tree to the left of the decking near the house; a large tree stump about 5ft high in the first third of the garden, which we took down as it was completely rotten; a twisted dwarf willow tree at the rear of the garden near the wall; a delipidated shed at the bottom of the garden; a broken swing and rotary washing dryer. There are various other bushes and plants in the two long borders that stretch on either side of the lawn (which incidently covers the whole garden!)

With such a blank canvas it’s hard to know where to begin. So I made notes of things I love and have always wanted in my imaginery garden. For me this included some fruit trees and bushes, a vegetable patch, an area for the children, and just lately a coastal/mediterranean area (I have a pinterest page here for that)

Today it was warm and the air felt spring like and inviting so I decided to plant my first tree, in this case a Silver Birch. I decided to plant it where the fallen tree was, as I wanted to be able to see it from the dining room window and hear the leaves moving from the deck when sitting outside. I have planned to plant an ornamental cherry Prunus Chocolate Ice nearby as in the autumn the juxtaposition of the leaves make a wonderful contrast in shape and colour. I wrote about the aniticpation of planting these in my post Dreaming of my New Garden in my last blog.

When digging the earth for the first time, I was thrilled to discover a good foot of crumbly black topsoil which looked rich in matter-every gardeners dream! I was expecting thick clay being so close to the downs, or heavy flint as we are very near the sea.

So I spent my first dusk in the garden with a cup of tea, listening to the chaffinches and blackbirds sounding alarm before bed.